HOUSTON – The Houston City Council approved $10 million in additional funding for the Small Business Economic Relief Program. The money will come from the CARES Act 2020 funds and will bring the total money set aside for the program to $35 million.
The program provides grant assistance to small businesses and chambers of commerce that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the program launched in August, and the application period closed in September.
Grant recipients include microbusinesses with five or fewer employees and those who did not receive any financial assistance from other relief programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
Houston received more than 12,000 applications for the SBERP, and there are still 3,000 applications under review and awaiting potential funding. The maximum amount a business or chamber can receive from the SBERP is $50,000, according to the city.
To date, the average grant amount approved has been $29,228. The application deadline is not being extended, the city says.
”A business may use the funds for payroll, accounts payable, rent, mortgage, personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees, and marketing strategies, including creating an online presence and other sales alternatives,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The City of Houston knows the pandemic has created challenges for many small businesses, and we want to help them survive until things get better.”
This additional allocation of CARES Act dollars is set to be awarded by the end of December 2020, using a weighted scoring matrix that will be used to ensure the equitable distribution of grant funds, according to the city. The SBERP applications are prioritized based on several factors, including geography, employee makeup, access to capital challenges, years in business, and demonstrated resiliency.
”There are so many more small businesses in need of assistance, and our goal has always been for this program to make the most impact and to reach as many people as possible,” said Marsha E. Murray, the director of the Office of Business Opportunity, whose office worked to develop the program. “With the extra funding, more small businesses can remain open and pay their employees through the New Year.”
The first half of the funds will be awarded upon grant approval, while the second half will be given after completion of the Recovery and Resiliency component of the program. This component is meant to ensure businesses that receive grant funds have a higher likelihood of surviving the pandemic.